Next, for everyone who earns their diploma or GED, I propose financial aid for college or for an alternative investment in education that will help them toward any career that they choose, so long as they demonstrate that they’re making an informed decision. Yes, we’ll need to be vigilant about fraudsters eager to get a piece of that money without offering valuable knowledge in return. But the problem will be no greater than under the status quo, when so much of the money that flows to public universities is squandered on administrative bloat and luxurious campus amenities.
Finally, so that those who pursue routes other than four-year colleges are treated more fairly, I propose legal reforms to eliminate obstacles like professional-licensing requirements that amount to no more than credentialism, and a shift away from insisting on a bachelor’s degree for jobs that shouldn’t require one.
My hope is that those changes will contribute to an overdue shift in culture that Mike Rowe has written about eloquently, as in this short essay he published last year:
Back in 2009, 12 million people were out of work. Most Americans assumed that could be fixed with 12 million new jobs. Thus, “job creation” became headline news. But then, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics quietly announced that companies were struggling to fill 2.1 million skilled positions. That statistic generated a lot of questions. How could so many good jobs go unfilled when so many people were out of work? Why weren’t people lining up for these opportunities? Why weren’t apprenticeship programs exploding with eager applicants?
...Now, eight years later, unemployment is down, interest rates are under control, and inflation is in check. But the overall labor participation rate is very low, and the skills gap is wider than ever. In fact, the latest numbers are out, and they are astonishing. According to the Department of Labor, America now has 5.6 million job openings.
Forget your politics for a moment, and consider the enormity of what’s happening here. Millions of people who have stopped looking for work are ignoring 5.6 million genuine opportunities. That’s not a polemic, or a judgment, or an opinion. It’s a fact. And so is this: most of those 5.6 million opportunities don’t require a diploma – they require require a skill.
Unfortunately, the skilled trades are no longer aspirational in these United States. In a society that’s convinced a four-year degree is the best path for the most people, a whole category of good jobs have been relegated to some sort of “vocational consolation prize.” Is it any wonder we have 1.3 trillion dollars in outstanding student loans? Is it really a surprise that vocational education has pretty much evaporated from high schools?
...the skills gap doesn’t seem all that mysterious – it seems like a reflection of what we value. Five and half million unfilled jobs is clearly a terrible drag on the economy and a sad commentary of what many people consider to be a “good job,” but it also represents a tremendous opportunity for anyone willing to learn a trade and apply themselves. As long as Americans remain addicted to affordable electricity, smooth roads, indoor plumbing and climate control, the opportunities in the skilled trades will never go away. They’ll never be outsourced. And those properly trained will always have the opportunity to expand their trade into a small business.
As a developer, Donald Trump earned a reputation for stiffing the skilled tradespeople who worked on his projects. As president, he has stiffed their sons and daughters.
For years, many Democrats failed them too. But I am offering a better approach. I am urging a new emphasis on social equality among Americans from different educational backgrounds, and policies that will get the U.S. closer than it’s ever been to equality of opportunity by giving a hand up not just to the academically gifted who opt to attend college, but to every young person who wants to learn and work hard.